The Preservation team at the National Library of Australia have recently been working with a number of amazing items that are now on display as part of the Melodrama in Meiji Japan exhibition. Many of these include stunningly beautiful and brightly coloured Japanese woodblock prints, also termed Kuchi-e (pronounced ‘koo-chi-eh’), literally translated as ‘mouth-picture’. A major part of the exhibition were the prints donated by Professor Richard Clough from 2011 to 2014.
A policeman’s lot was certainly not a happy one in colonial Brisbane, a rough frontier town with an exploding population and alcohol fuelled violence.
I first discovered the letters of Banjo Paterson's mother Rose—around which my new book Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet is based—in the course of my PhD research some 16 years ago. I was searching the National Library's Manuscript Collections for correspondence and diaries that might provide evidence about what kind of music Australian pioneer women played, and where and when they performed.
What did you do in the war, Mummy?
A whole lot more than most people think, or remember, according to some Trove-driven research emerging out of New England, in northern New South Wales.
One of the biggest challenges a book designer faces is to create a cover that is not only engaging but also reflects the content within. Covers speak to readers. They may say ‘I am for a young reader', ‘I am historical' or ‘I am a funny'. Many decisions made by the designer affect the readers' assumptions about the contents of a book and encourage or—though we try to avoid this—discourage them from picking it up and exploring it further.
During my research for Badge, Boot, Button: The Story of Australian Uniforms, I looked at one of the many curious treasures in the National Library's collection: a large metal trunk painted red and black, with a label engraved ‘P. Shaw Esq'. Inside the trunk, folds of black wool and a burst of feathers resolve themselves into a uniform decorated with gold braid and topped with a plumed bicorn hat.
Most good picture books have some kind of dual narrative going on, another story that's quite apart from the text. As visual narrative, illustrations should not be a direct reflection of the text—they should be so much more.
For a book like This Is Banjo Paterson, where young children are introduced to a topic that's not typical for their age, it was very important to get this visual narrative right.